How Arizona Is Coping With Coronavirus: Bisbee, Clifton, Gila Bend, Globe, Kingman

By Rocio Hernandez, Michel Marizco, Matthew Casey, Bret Jaspers
Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 10:09pm
Updated: Saturday, April 4, 2020 - 10:23am

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Copper Queen Library in Bisbee, Arizona
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
The Copper Queen Library in Bisbee, Arizona.

Across Arizona, small communities are feeling the effect of the coronavirus pandemic and community response. KJZZ checked in with cities and towns outside the Phoenix area to see how they are faring.

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Gila Bend

Gila Bend sits in the southern portion of Maricopa County, about 70 miles from Phoenix. The population of roughly 2,000 people doesn’t make much money. 

Town Manager Katherine Valenzuela said Gila Bend’s local shopping options include a meat market, a Dollar General and a Family Dollar. 

“They sell dried goods and some frozen goods, but not a lot of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Valenzuela said residents have struggled to find what they need at those stores because people from other places are coming to Gila Bend to shop. 

“Buying out the stock of things such as toilet paper, and cheese, and eggs, and milk,” she said. “I feel like it’s an unfair burden for our residents to be wiped out by members of other communities.” 

Those who can’t get the groceries they need in Gila Bend face a 40-minute drive to Buckeye or Maricopa. Valenzuela said living in Gila Bend means a lifestyle that’s far away from essentials, and it’s imperative that the goods that are in town go to local residents. 

Clifton

Near the state’s boundary with New Mexico, the town of Clifton issued an emergency proclamation Monday, one that only impacts City Hall. 

Mayor Luis Montoya said the rules follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines about minimizing crowds and handwashing. 

“Outside of that, as far as private business is concerned, small restaurants, the few small restaurants that we have here, all we do is make recommendations,” he said.  

As of Tuesday afternoon, Montoya said business hadn’t changed.

“The customers still are going through, I guess is my most simple response,” he said.

Bisbee

In the southern Arizona town of Bisbee, the Copper Queen Library decided Monday to close through the end of March.

The choice has led to some novel ways for the library to continue reaching out into the community, said assistant coordinator Allison Williams. She’s looking into temporarily lifting copyright rules on authors’ books so she can record readings and give children virtual story times.

“There are a lot of questions from librarians across the country about how to address this and make that available,” Williams said.

Globe

Things were business as usual on Tuesday at the Gila County Historical Museum in Globe. 

The museum is run by volunteers, all of which are older adults. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older adults are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus, but 69-year-old Carl Lopez said he and other volunteers weren’t afraid of working Tuesday morning because their community has no known cases of coronavirus at this time. 

“The reason we stayed open [is] everything else is closed and people, they’re going to be going through town anyways, traveling or something and need a place to go,” he said. “They could stop and look around.” 

Two visitors did stop by while Lopez was working. 

While the museum is staying open for now, Globe schools are not. Over the weekend, Gov. Doug Ducey and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman decided to close all schools statewide.

Globe High School
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Globe High School was built in 1914 and is one of the oldest high schools in the state.

Globe Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Jennex said when he heard the announcement, he worried about what the closure would mean for his students. Around 60% of the district’s 1,700 students qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

So the district decided if students couldn’t come to their schools for food, the district would go to them. It set up 13 food distribution sites across the Globe area, including in the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where about one-third of his students are members. 

“Our schools aren’t necessarily located in the neighborhoods where the kids live, so we decided that we were going to go mobile,” Jennex said. “We worked with the Arizona Department of Education to certify some of our bus stops as mobile serving sites.”

The district distributed about 400 meals, but ran out before they could serve everyone. The district hopes to provide more meals on Wednesday.

Kingman

The city of Kingman in northwest Arizona is a stop on historic Route 66. It’s close to Las Vegas, Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon. 

And American tourists continue to pass through town despite concerns about the coronavirus said Coleen Haines, public affairs coordinator for Kingman.

“I think we’ve seen [a] little bit of a downtick, I guess, in maybe some foreign visitors. But we’re definitely, I think, seeing some consistent numbers,” she said. “I think those people that aren’t traveling or able to fly overseas for their spring breaks are hitting the open road and going to the Grand Canyon and practicing social distancing in our national parks.”

Kingman has canceled City Council meetings in April, as well as a Citizens Academy. Callers to Kingman Dispatch will now be asked specific questions about health symptoms and recent travel history. 

Kingman Mayor Jen Miles planned to sign a declaration of local emergency on Tuesday, so the city could potentially receive any state or federal reimbursement for expenditures due to the outbreak.

Kingman
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
Kingman, Arizona.

And like other places, Kingman is seeing a lack of toilet paper in stores. That can lead to downstream complications — complications the city wants to prevent. 

Without toilet paper, people may resort to personal care products like baby wipes and paper towels, which can clog the pipes. 

“It’s definitely not a career highlight to tell people what they can flush down their toilet,” Haines said. “But it’s necessary. It really can affect wastewater treatment plants, it can cause flooding in your own home. Way down the line it can cause, you know, sewer issues.”

Only two things should be flushed down the toilet, Haines said: human waste and toilet paper. 

And that probably goes for people all across the state.

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